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The Mark of CainGuilt and Denial in the Post-War Lives of Nazi Perpetrators$
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Katharina von Kellenbach

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199937455

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199937455.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 04 August 2021

The Mark of Cain

The Mark of Cain

Chapter:
(p.10) 1 The Mark of Cain
Source:
The Mark of Cain
Author(s):

Katharina von Kellenbach

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199937455.003.0002

The biblical story of Cain, who murdered his brother Abel and was marked by God, conceptualizes guilt as a lifelong task, in contrast to the parable of the prodigal son in the New Testament. Cain's guilt is not forgiven and forgotten; the stain of fratricide is not washed away or purified. He is not relieved from the burden of guilt or released from its memory. Instead, Cain is allowed to rebuild his life on the basis of radical transparency and commemoration. This story contains important clues for envisioning the moral recovery of perpetrators of collective violence who did not feel guilty. Agents of state crimes generally deny wrongdoing and reject personal responsibility for human rights violations because they feel justified by value systems that dehumanize the victims. Therefore, offers of forgiveness prove ineffective in spurring moral repair. Only open long-term engagement and truthful acknowledgment of the past can generate genuine transformation.

Keywords:   mark of cain, guilt, collective violence, forgiveness, reconciliation, atrocity

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